Giving up caffeine was probably the hardest food change I’ve made over this past 12 years of eating healthy.
Reducing meat? Pretty simple. Giving up Doritos? I was OK with that. But caffeine? Coffee? My personal and professional love? That was hard.
Why I decided to give up caffeine
By the time I decided to give up caffeine, I had a super clean diet. I at (basically) no processed food, only consumed meat 2-3 times per week, and I cooked my own meals. But there were two main reasons why I decided to cut caffeine out.
- Mood and energy management. I was by no means a coffee fiend. I drank a small coffee or espresso every morning and afternoon. But I knew that if I didn’t get my coffee…I’d be asking for a headache. Even worse, I would get cranky and angry until I had my caffeine fix. I decided that I didn’t want to be dependent on this substance to be my best self.
- Adrenal health. Caffeine boosts our metabolism and increases cortisol, our main stress hormone. Drinking caffeine gives you a quick burst of energy that’s akin to getting chased by a tiger (i.e., stress). After that burst of energy and adrenaline, you’re left with the after effects (i.e., burnout). It’s not a long-term energy solution. If you’re dealing with adrenal fatigue, thyroid or estrogen issues, cutting out caffeine might be hugely beneficial. Learn more about it here.
How to give up caffeine
If you currently take milk and sugar with your coffee, start here:
- Reduce your sugar in your coffee by 1/2 tsp per week.
- Once you’re down to 1/2 tsp (or no) sugar in your coffee, begin to reduce your milk in your coffee by 1/2 tsp per week until you’re down to 1/2 tsp (or no) milk in your coffee.
- Continue to the plan outlined below!
If you currently have less than 1/2 tsp of milk and sugar in your coffee, start here:
- List out the number of coffees you drink each day.
- Put a dash next to the coffees you get because they’re simply right in front of you (not because you really want it).
- Put an exclamation point next to any coffee you drink after 3pm.
- Put a star next to the coffees that you get because you are feeling tired or want energy.
- Put a heart next to the coffees you drink because you truly love the beverage.
- Take a look at the breakdown of your coffees. Try to go a day without any of the coffees that have a dash next to them. Did anything change? Go for a week without those “dash” coffees.
- Next, try switching all of your post 3pm coffees to decaf. Do you notice a difference in your energy, mood, or sleep? Go for an entire week without 3pm or later caffeine.
- Now here’s the harder stuff. Start to reduce the star coffees. Perhaps you’re able to simply not have that coffee anymore. If that’s too much, reduce the size of that coffee by 1/4 or 1/2. Spend 3-4 weeks getting used to life with less of those check mark coffees. Note that you might have some increased cravings for food and sugar during this time. That’s why drinking lots of water and reducing your coffee intake slowly is so important.
- Once you’ve gotten to a solid month or two of only having your “heart” coffees, it’s time to start reducing your intake. Because these heart coffees are important to you – how you replace them is important. Look at the options that follow and decide which makes most sense for you. Consider when you have those coffees, the importance of a warm beverage, and how likely it is that you’ll get caffeine headaches as you ease off. Here are some options:
- Slowly reduce the amount of the coffee you drink and don’t replace it with anything.
- Switch to decaf (immediately or slowly over time).
- Switch to green tea (low caffeination) or decaf/herbal tea.
As you can tell, reducing your caffeine isn’t a fast process. But following this protocol will let you stay away from caffeine long-term and still feel good.
As always, reducing caffeine isn’t the right solution for everyone, so decide what’s best for your body, and go from there! I’ll be here to support you along the way.